TV Review: Mary McCormack Continues to Shine on ‘In Plain Sight’

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No votes yet Television Rating: 3.5/5.0
Television Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGOUSA Network’s “In Plain Sight” was one of the best new shows of 2008, another hit for the highest-rated network on cable, USA. The first-year series still needs to iron out a few things to truly live up its potential but the excellent Mary McCormack continues to rock on one of the few must-see basic cable shows this season.

The season premiere of “In Plain Sight” - “Gilted Lily” - perfectly illustrates both the potential and the current flaws with USA’s hit. When a show places so much emphasis on weekly mysteries, you’re bound to have a few that fall flat. I honestly never once cared about the mystery at the heart of the second season premiere of “In Plain Sight” - a tale of a biker and some missing gold coins.

In Plain Sight
In Plain Sight
Photo credit: Gregory Peters/USA

However, the characters and plotlines around the “A plot” of the season premiere of “In Plain Sight” continue to work. It all centers on Mary McCormack’s amazing performance, one that seems to be growing even richer in season two. She deserved more credit and even nominations for season one. Hopefully, that will come with season two.

If you’re completely unfamiliar with “In Plain Sight,” the opening narration sets the stage better than I possibly could - “Since 1970, the Federal Witness Protection Program has relocated thousands of witnesses - some criminal, some not - to neighborhoods all across the country. Every one of those individuals shares a unique attribute, distinguishing them from the rest of the general population. And that is, somebody wants them dead.”

McCormack, best-known for her stage work and playing Allison Stern in “Private Parts,” is perfect as Mary Shannon, a tough-as-nails but totally believable agent for the Federal Witness Protection Program (WITSEC for short). Mary spends her days monitoring and placing people in the program, allowing for an easy mystery-of-the-week structure, and spends her nights with some serious personal and family problems.

When season two opens, Mary and her family are still shattered over the end of season one. In fact, Mary is dealing with “her own form of PTSD,” as said by her partner Marshal Mann (Fred Weller). Her mother (Lesley Ann Warren) is dealing with the revelations from the end of season one, as is her troubled sister (Nichole Hiltz). Todd Williams, Cristian de la Fuente, and Paul Ben-Victor also co-star.

In Plain Sight
In Plain Sight
Photo credit: Gregory Peters/USA

Except for a few episodes (including a great one with Dave Foley), the first season excelled when the emphasis was more on the characters than the “case of the week”. It’s tough to write intriguing mysteries when all the viewer really wants to do is get to know Mary a little more. She’s a great character, one that easily stands next to the acclaimed female leads of shows like “The Closer” or “Saving Grace”. In fact, I think McCormack is better, adding realism to a part that so many actresses would have played two-dimensionally.

I said in my DVD review a few weeks ago, “Like “Burn Notice” in season one, sometimes the balance between the “case of the week” and the rest of the show can feel a bit off on “In Plain Sight”. Some of the cases aren’t as interesting as others and if it’s a bad weekly installment, it’s easy to long for more of the supporting characters and less of the action at the center of the piece.”

After the first two episodes of “In Plain Sight,” this is still a problem. I wasn’t thrilled with either case and I think the writers still have to work to do in balancing the weekly mysteries with the overall ensemble. They should take a look at the second and vastly superior season of “Burn Notice” to see how it’s done.

Now, “Burn Notice” wasn’t great from the very start of season two and I still think there’s time for “In Plain Sight” to have a similar sophomore bump by the end of the summer. I know I’ll be tuning in every week.

‘In Plain Sight,’ which airs on USA, stars Mary McCormack, Fred Weller, Nichole Hiltz, Todd Williams, Lesley Ann Warren, Paul Ben-Victor, and Cristian de la Fuente. It was created by David Maples. The second season premieres on Sunday, April 19th, 2009 at 9PM CST. content director Brian Tallerico

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